Tsunami panic in South Pacific after major quake hits Solomon Islands
At least five killed and homes destroyed as waves batter coastal areas in South Pacific
A major magnitude 8 earthquake jolted the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific yesterday, causing small tsunami waves that killed at least five people and left dozens of homes damaged or destroyed.
A quake-generated wave of just under a metre high reached parts of the Solomons, with Vanuatu and New Caledonia also reporting rising sea levels, before the tsunami alert was lifted.
Sirens were heard in Fiji, with one local tweeting from the capital: "Chaos in the streets of Suva as everyone tries to avoid the tsunami!!"
Japan, which was hit by a huge tsunami in March 2011 that killed more than 19,000 people, was also on edge for a time.
The national weather agency warned that a minor tsunami could come ashore, but only small waves were detected. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre cancelled its regional alert for Pacific-island nations about two-and-a-half hours after the quake struck near the Santa Cruz Islands in the Solomons.
Australian and US monitors said a tsunami wave measuring 91cm washed into the town of Lata, on the main Santa Cruz island of Ndende.
The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the wave travelled 500 metres inland, inundating Lata's airstrip as well as surrounding villages, flattening many traditional houses.
A nurse at Lata Hospital, Chris Rogers, said: "We can report five dead and three injured. One of the dead was a male child, three were elderly women and one an elderly man."
Solomons Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo's office said the tsunami hit four villages on the Santa Cruz Islands.
"Latest reports suggest that between 60 to 70 homes have been damaged," Lilo's spokesman George Herming said.
"At this stage, authorities are still trying to establish the exact number and extent of damage. Communication to (the) Santa Cruz Islands is difficult due to the remoteness of the islands."
Solomon Islands Red Cross secretary general Joanne Zoleveke said she had been told at least three villages were hit, with houses washed away.